Tuesday 21 November 2017

UN watchdog urges 'free' and 'peaceful' DR Congo elections

UN watchdog urges 'free' and 'peaceful' DR Congo elections
(AFP (eng) 11/09/17)

A UN watchdog on Thursday called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure that elections set for late next year are "free, peaceful and honest".

The UN Human Rights Committee also decried the "closure of public space" in the country, including the suspension of social media platforms, television and radio programmes.

The DRC is in the grip of a crisis over plans to hold presidential elections, which were delayed by President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down on the expiry of his second and final term last December.

Under a compromise deal, the vote was scheduled to take place this year, but has since been pushed back until December 2018.

"We are calling for the establishment of an electoral calendar based on consensus (between) all the parties, which will allow for free, peaceful and honest elections," UN expert Olivier de Frouville told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.

Frouville, who is one of 18 independent experts who make up the UN rights committee, also called for "an end to the intimidation and rights violations ... perpetrated against the political opposition and especially declared presidential candidates."

The experts, who last month spent two days questioning a delegation from DRC about the country's rights record, voiced alarm in their conclusions Thursday at the widespread impunity enjoyed by state agents and armed militias who commit violations.

They lamented allegations of "excessive force by police and security agents to disperse protesters".

And they called on DRC to prosecute those who threaten or attack "journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders."

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